05:11 GMT +319 August 2018
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    Residents leave the territory of Eastern Ghouta

    View on the Ground: Thousands of Civilians Leaving Eastern Ghouta

    © Sputnik / Muhamad Maruf
    Middle East
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    DAMASCUS (Sputnik) - Adults and children leaving Eastern Ghouta startle at the sound of automatic guns firing behind their backs and many of them start to cry when they see Syrian troops, realizing that they have reached a safe place.

    For several days, the Syrian military, the representatives of the Russian Reconciliation Center, and the Red Crescent have been receiving tens of thousands of civilians, who, hungry and scared, walk through the humanitarian corridor into the unknown.

    ANXIOUS ESCAPE

    Lt. Somar is responsible for the most dangerous section of the humanitarian corridor in the city of Hamoryah. There are slightly over 600 feet between his soldiers and the militants. At the exits from the humanitarian corridor, Syrian troops meet the civilians and, shielding women and children, take them to the security zone.

    "Since this morning, the terrorists have been shooting in the direction of the corridor. No one was killed, thank God, they are shooting to scare people off, to make them run back. They are trying to create an illusion for those still on the other side, that the Syrian army is shooting peaceful citizens, while my soldiers shield these poor people from their bullets, and we have lined all the way along our side of the corridor and to the buses with drinking water jugs," Somar told Sputnik.

    Apart from the Hamoryah corridor, there are other exits in the cities of Duma and Jisreen, but this one is the safest. In four days, almost 50,000 people have successfully escaped. There are about 300,000 people still held by the terrorists. As the Syrian army is pressing deeper into Ghouta, those people have a chance to escape.

    MEETING THE FAMILY

    One of the soldiers spots his sister, and his brother’s wife and children in the crowd. The man immediately forgets he is on duty and rushes through the crowd, crying out their names. The women burst into sobs and fling their arms around his neck. As the man is holding his little niece in his arms, tears come streaming down his face.

    "This is my niece and this is my nephew. We have not seen each other in four years, and have been waiting for a meeting that might have never happened. Look what they have done to them – they are tired, hungry and scared," the soldier said.

    FEAR IN GHOUTA

    After the heart-wrenching scene, Somar and I decide to go over to the edge of the corridor to meet the flow of refugees. As people emerge from the corridor, they immediately start thanking us, hugging us, and asking for water.

    "How far are the buses? We have been walking for two hours as bullets flew around us. We have not eaten in three days. I cannot do this anymore," a woman with a child in her arms stated, falling to her knees.

    "Get some rest. The bullets will not get you here. You have passed through the corridor, there is no need to hurry now," Somar said, offering her a glass of water.

    A man with a child in his arms said that the ending of hostilities in Ghouta was obvious. The terrorists are chaotic – some leave their weapons and try to blend into the crowds of refugees, others run to the parts of Ghouta, which the Syrian army has not yet reached.

    "You have no idea what we have been through. One family was allowed a couple of flat-breads a day. A kilo of rice cost 5,000 —6,000 [Syrian] pounds ($10-$12), one cigarette – 1,500 pounds, sugar – 5,000 pounds. The terrorists took away all humanitarian help, made us live in basements, saying that the army might attack. My children have not washed in days. Needless to say, there was no medical help whatsoever," the man keeps on talking, collapsing on the bench near his wife.

    BETTER WALK THAN DIE

    Surrounded by the concrete ruins of Hamoryah, people keep on walking. Many young women are pregnant. Older children help their parents carry younger brothers and sisters. Rocks and pieces of iron do not seem to bother barefoot kids. It seems that fear pushes them forward.

    "No, we’re scared," a seven-year-old boy replied, when soldiers offered him a candy. The kids change their minds after their mother’s reassuring nod, faint smiles light up their faces.

    "Please save them. There are thousands of civilians there," the boy’s mother said.

    Since the humanitarian pauses started, the militants have been threatening to shoot anyone who wanted to escape Eastern Ghouta. Last week, several young people were executed, after they raised the state flag during a demonstration in support of the Syrian government.

    At the entrance of the humanitarian corridor, where we are talking to the civilians, there is is the body of a man – only a few feet between him and the safe zone. Blood is running from a wound on his back.

    Another body – now of a middle-aged woman is lying at the gathering spot close to the buses. There are many of seeking medical help, and not enough ambulances to evacuate all those in need.

    "Mother’s heart failed, when the terrorists started shooting, she died on the way, when some 1,500 feet were left. Men carried her here in a blanket," a young woman says quietly.

    Another middle-aged woman passes by, she breaks a dried flat-bread in two with her trembling hands and gives one half to the daughter of the deceased.

    The buses keep cruising between the gathering spot in Ghouta and rehabilitation centers, where people can get hot meals, medical attention, and warm water that, along with dirt, they can wash away the terrors of the past.

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    escape, civilians, Eastern Ghouta, Syria
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